The Latest

18 March 2021: Veeam released a report which suggests that 58% of backups fail. After validating these claims, and from the direct experiences of our advisors who have been CIOs or infrastructure managers in previous years, IBRS accepts there is merit in Veeam’s claim.

The real question is, what to do about it, other than buying into Veeam’s sales pitch that its backups give greater reliability?

Why it’s Important

Sophisticated ransomware attacks are on the rise. So much so that IBRS issued a special alert on the increasing risks in late March 2021. Such ransomware attacks specifically target backup repositories. This means creating disconnected, or highly-protected backups is more important than ever. The only guarantee for recovery from ransomware is a combination of well-structured backups, coupled with a well-rehearsed cyber incident response plan. 

However, protecting the backups is only useful if those backups can be recovered. IBRS estimates around 10-12% of backups fail to fully recover, which is measuring a slightly different, but more important situation than touted by Veeam. Even so, this failure rate is still far too high, given heightened risk from financially-motivated ransomware attacks.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Risk Officers reporting to the board
  • CISCO
  • Infrastructure leads

What’s Next?

IBRS has identified the ‘better-practice’ from backup must include regular and unannounced, practice runs to recover critical systems from backups. These tests should be run to simulate as closely as possible to events that could lead to a recovery situation: critical system failures, malicious insider and ransomware. Just as organisations need to rehearse cyber incident responses, they also need to thoroughly test their recovery regime. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Maintaining disaster recovery plans
  2. Ransomware: Don’t just defend, plan to recover
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 59: Recovery from ransomware attacks
  4. Ransomware, to pay or not to pay?
  5. ICT disaster recovery plan challenges
  6. Testing your business continuity plan

The Latest

28 March 2021: MaxContact, vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Teams clients. Similar vendors of call centre solutions have announced or are planning similar integration with Teams and/or Zoom. In effect, the most common video communications clients are becoming alternatives to voice calls, complete with all the management and metrics required by call centres. 

Why it’s Important

The pandemic has forced working from home, which has in turn positioned video calling as a common way to communicate. There is an expectation that video calling, be it on mobile devices, desktop computers or built into televisions, will become increasingly normalised in the coming decade. Clearly call centres will need to cater for clients who wish to place calls into the call centre using video calls.

But there is a difference between voice calls and video that few people are considering (beyond the obvious media).  That is, timing of video calls is generally negotiated via another media: instant messaging, calendaring, or meeting invites. In contrast, the timing for voice calls are far less mediated, especially when engaging with call centres for service, support or sales activities.

For reactive support and services, video calls between a call centre and a client will most likely be a negotiated engagement, either instigated via an email or web-based chat agent. Cold-calling and outward bound video calls is unlikely to be effective.

The above has significant implications for client service and support processes and call centre operations.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

The adoption of video calls by the masses is here to stay. Video calling is not a fad, but it will take time to mature. 

Having video support and services available as part of the call centre mix is likely to be an advantage, but only if its use makes sense in the context of the tasks and clients involved.  

Organisations should begin brainstorming the potential usage of video calls for serving. However, adding video calling to the call centre is less of a priority than consolidating a multi-channel strategy and, over time, an omnichannel strategy.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance
  2. Evolve your multichannels before you try to omnichannel
  3. VENDORiQ: CommsChoice becomes Australia's first vendor of Contact Centre for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

The Latest

28 March 2021: AWS has a history of periodically lowering the costs of storage. But even with this typical behaviour, its recent announcement of an elastic storage option that shaves 47% off current service prices is impressive. Or is it?

The first thing to realise is that the touted savings are not apples for apples. AWS’s new storage offering is cheaper because it resides in a single-zone, rather than being replicated across multiple zones. In short, the storage has a higher risk of being unavailable, or even being lost by an outright failure. 

Why it’s Important

AWS has not hidden this difference. It makes it clear that the lower cost comes from less redundancy. Yet this architectural nuance may be overlooked when looking at ways to optimise Cloud costs.

One of the major benefits of moving to Platform-as-a-Service offerings is the increased resilience and availability of the architecture. Cloud vendors, including AWS, do suffer periodic failures within zones. Examples include the AWS Sydney outage in early 2020 and the Sydney outage in 2016 which impacted banking and e-commerce services.  

But it is important to note that even though some of Australia’s top companies were effectively taken offline by the 2016 outage, others just sailed on as if little had happened. The difference is how these companies had leveraged the redundancies available within Cloud platforms. Those that saw little impact to operations when the AWS Sydney went down had selected redundancies in all aspects of their solutions.

Who’s impacted

  • Cloud architects
  • Cloud cost/contract specialists
  • Applications architects
  • Procurement leads

What’s Next?

The lesson from previous Australian AWS outages is that organisations need to carefully match the risk of specific application downtime. This new announcement shows that significant savings (in this case 47%) are possible by accepting a greater risk profile. However, while this may be attractive from a pure cost optimisation/procurement perspective, it also needs to be tempered with an analysis of the worst case scenario, such as multiple banks being unable to process credit card payments in supermarkets for an extended period.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: AWS second data centre in Australia
  2. Post COVID-19: Four new BCP considerations
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 55: IBRS Infrastructure Maturity Model

Conclusion

At 21.7 per cent, staff attrition within the Australian Information Technology (IT) sector is unsustainably high. Staff recognition can be defined as the action or process of recognising employees for the work completed through words and gratitude1. Over the past five years, globally, organisations have increased their focus and investment on employee reward and recognition.

However, despite this increased focus, research shows that recognition is not occurring as often as it should be, as only 61 per cent of employees feel appreciated in the workplace1. Research also shows that even when recognition is provided for employees, it is not executed well or enacted correctly 1/3 of the time.

Organisational development and human resource studies demonstrate that reward and recognition programs commonly do not resonate or hit the mark for employees, if they are: not authentic and sincere2, only provided in a single context, or are based on award criteria that is overly complex or unattainable3.

This paper covers how leaders and organisations can recognise and then subsequently avoid these three common pitfalls, to maximise the investment into employee reward and recognition programs and efforts.

Read more ...

Conclusion

Traditionally, vendor lock-in was associated with deliberate vendor-driven outcomes, where software and hardware forced the client to align their business processes to those offered by a specific software or ICT platform. Vendor lock-in often limited the flexibility of organisations to meet business needs as well as increasing costs. As a result, information and communication technology (ICT) was often seen as a limiting factor for business success when agility was needed. Historically, vendor lock-in was therefore seen as a negative. Poor timing, bad decisions and clumsy procurement practices may still see organisations fall into unwanted vendor lock-in situations. But is vendor lock-in always a negative?

Read more ...

Conclusion

Many security incidents are having major impacts on organisations. In too many cases these are left to the information technology teams to handle.

Yet the group most responsible for an organisation’s continued survival and growth is the chief officer (CxO) group. Incident response therefore ultimately resides with this group. In order to develop the ability to handle a major attack on an organisation, it is imperative that the CxO group also become familiar with responding to cyber security events.

This can be done by running tabletop exercises that then become the basis for building more detailed plans around communications, crisis management, and the organisation’s preparedness.

Read more ...

Conclusion

This month, discussions regarding customer and employee experience solutions have been prominent. New remote working models have driven demand for products and services which support improved customer and employee experience solutions. Customer engagement services that can align business goals and needs with IT services and infrastructure are required to avoid the implementation of solutions that interfere with business processes. Data science tools, solutions and a combination of information from different sources can help vendors retain a focus on customer metrics that drive business growth. They also help to manage operations, supply chain issues and provide a greater understanding of changes underlying customer and employee behaviours.

Read more ...

Conclusion

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is suitable for addressing a range of business challenges. As VDI has evolved over the past decade, understanding of use-cases for where is best applied has also matured. In this paper, we explore the use-cases where VDI has been most successful.

Read more ...

Conclusion

Major increases in demand for ICT and business professional employment in the year 2020 have been reported, despite the economic downturn. These increases are important to note as they signal a post-pandemic increase in ICT investment in the year 2021 and in future years to support enhanced business systems and demand (user) computing.

To complicate matters a survey of Australian CIOs indicated that it will be more challenging to find qualified technology employees in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic market conditions. Unless recruitment programs are well thought out, the inability to recruit the right people will stifle plans to take advantage of ICT growth opportunities in 2021.

Read more ...

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many cases, forced the workforce environment to shrink to the walls of worker’s houses for at least nine months. While some services such as shopping, online learning and telemedicine proved to be useful when made available remotely, many other services were not suitable to run effectively outside the traditional work environment (e. g. those with inadequate network capacity). Organisations should study the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of deploying additional remote services that are critical to improve business performance, increase service efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business.

Read more ...

Conclusion

The decision to integrate machine learning (ML) into systems and operations is not one that is made lightly. Aside from the costs of acquiring the technology tools, there are added considerations such as staff training and the expertise required to improve ML operations (MLOps) capabilities.

An understanding of the ML cycle before deployment is key. Once requirements and vision are defined, the appropriate tools are acquired. ML specialists will then analyse and perform feature engineering, model design, training, and testing and deployment. This is also known as the dev loop. At the implementation stage, the ML model is deployed and the application is subsequently refined and enhanced. The next stage is the monitoring and improving stage where the organisation refines the model and evaluates the ROI for its data science efforts. This stage triggers the retraining of the model through data drift and monitoring.

Read more ...

Conclusion

DevOps, business intelligence (BI) and data, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are all driving rapid change within IT departments. The challenge will be finding Cloud certified people to meet the rising demand.

Leaders have two main choices. Upskill their existing teams, or embark on a recruitment campaign that brings in Cloud certified professionals to manage Cloud migration and provide the ongoing support and optimisation needed to bring the full value of Cloud to IT operations.

For organisations who suddenly realise how far they are behind on the Cloud value curve, pressure will mount to deliver results quickly. Make sure staff are certified and ready to address your hybrid or multi-Cloud environments.

Read more ...

The Latest

18 March 2021: Zoho is a privately held, Indian, Cloud-based CRM vendor that has grown rapidly internationally. It has just turned 25 years old. While it’s CRM suite is not as sophisticated as that of SalesForce, it is supported by a suite of low-code development tools and marketing-oriented modules for small to mid-sized business.

zoho timeline

Why it’s Important

IBRS has noted that many Australian organisations - in particular the public sector - are only short-listing Salesforce and Dynamics for modern CRM. This is often due to the research into available CRMs being exclusively limited to vendors in leading positions on US-focused market research papers, or advice from consultancies that only refer to such public materials.

To ensure the best suite at the best cost-point is selected, IBRS strongly recommends that the following be considered during the shortlisting process: 

  1.  Be sure to explore niche CRM products, as some of these may have a better fit or specific industry sector focus that can deliver benefits more quickly and at significantly lower costs than the leading products. Just because a solution as complex as a CRM is leading the market, does not mean it is necessarily the best for your organisation.
  2. When reading international reports, keep in mind that North America and Europe have different technology market ecosystems to Australia. In particular, skills availability (and therefore costs) differ. Be sure to factor in local issues.
  3. Carefully consider your starting point. How complex is your software environment? Factor your organisation’s networking infrastructure and the integration requirements both immediate and longer term.
  4. Leverage the channel capabilities and skills of local implementation partners. Implementation partners play a significantly greater role in a CRM’s successful implementation than the product itself. It is therefore vital that buyers not only consider the product in question, but also the available partners. 

The ultimate impact of limiting modern CRM (and related digital services) to the major vendors is that organisations may find themselves paying for far more than they need in a system, while also introducing more complexity into business operations than is necessary. 

IBRS is not suggesting that Zoho (or any of the other niche CRMs from the myriad available) is right for your organisation. Salesforce and Dynamics are exceptional products. However, many organisations do not need exceptional: they simply need more than good enough for their current and future needs, and they need it quickly and at the right cost point.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Digital platform leads
  • Procurement teams
  • Business units executives

What’s Next?

Shortlists are critical for keeping procurement agile and within scope. However, do not short-change the shortlisting process by relying on generic reports that do not factor in:

  • specific industry needs
  • the Australian context
  • local channels and skills 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Trends for 2021-2026: No New Normal and Preparing For the Fourth-wave of ICT
  2. VENDORiQ: Salesforce Introduces Hyperforce
  3. Salesforce vs Dynamics
  4. CRM Modernisation Part 5: Microsoft Dynamics vs Salesforce Total Cost of Service
  5. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS Review Our Dynamics365 (D365) Licensing Calculations?

 

The Latest

23 March 2021: ServiceNow has signed an agreement to purchase robotic process automation vendor, Intellibot. The deal will see Indian-based Intellibot, which was founded in 2015, embedded into the ServiceNow platform. 

Why it’s Important

RPA is rapidly becoming merged within the low-code everything ecosystem. ServiceNow’s planned investment in buying into RPA is not surprising: other low-code vendors, such as Nintex, have already secured their RPA solutions through acquisition. Buyers of standard-alone RPA solutions can expect more acquisitions, followed by rapid market consolidation in 3-5 years time. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Expect RPA to play an increasing role in areas such as customer account creation and management, customer verification, employee on-boarding and off-boarding, data extraction and migration, and claims and invoice processing, among others.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Exploring Robotic Process Automation
  2. How Can AI Reimagine Your Business Processes?
  3. Cloud Low-code Vendor Webflow Secures US$140 Million
  4. Aussie Vendor Radar: Nintex Joins the Mainstream Business Process Automation Vendor Landscape
  5. SNAPSHOT: A Robotic Process Automation Infographic

The Latest

20 March 2021: GorillaStack has released capabilities that allows it to monitor and apply governance rules to any external service that communicates with AWS EventBridge.

Why it’s Important

GorillaStack is one of the earliest vendors to address the complexities of Cloud cost management, having started in Australia in 2015 and moved to having strong growth in the international market. In May 2020, GorillaStack was acquired by the switzerland-based SoftwareOne.

Like its international competitors, GorillaStack moved from helping organisations monitor and optimise their Cloud spend, to monitoring the Cloud ecosystems for performance and security concerns. This recent announcement suggests that the next phase of growth for organisations in the Cloud cost optimisation space is not only to detect events in Cloud infrastructure, but also external services, and then apply rules to perform specific actions on those events. Such rules can not only automatically help reduce Cloud spend by enforcing financial governance directly into the Cloud infrastructure, but also helping to enforce security rules.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Cloud cost optimisation is already an important discipline for organisations with mature Cloud teams. Like software asset management (SAM), tools alone will not see organisations optimise their expenditure on Cloud services. An understanding of the disciplines required and setting up appropriate rules is needed. In addition, IBRS notes that many less-mature organisations have a ‘sprawl’ of Cloud services that need to first be identified and then reigned in before cost optimisations products can be fully effective. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. New Generation IT Service Management Tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud Management
  2. How to Get on Top of Cloud Billing
  3. Sourcing Monthly April 2020 – May 2020

The Latest

27 March 2021: Google has announced programs with two US-based insurance companies where clients taking up Google Cloud Platform security capabilities will receive discounts on cyber insurance premiums. 

Why it’s Important

The number of serious cyber incidents is on the increase and insurance premiums in the US have tripled over the last two years. Having a cyber incident response plan in place helps mitigate the risks and reduces the recovery time from a cyber incident, but also contributes to lowering the premium for cyber insurance. It is akin to having fitted window locks to a house, lowering insurance premiums in certain circumstances.

Google’s security posture, and threat assessment services, and services to manage security incidents effectively are sufficient to both reduce the frequency of security incidents and lessen their impact. Insurance actuaries see the benefit in such services and have determined there are savings to be made by the lower risk and risk mitigation profiles. 

Notwithstanding any special programs brokered between Cloud vendors and insurers, being able to demonstrate both a strong security posture and, importantly, an incident response plan will drive down an organisation's premiums, especially as insurance companies are inserting their own teams into incident response situations. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

If not already done, organisations should undertake a cyber risk assessment and implement a cyber incident response plan backed by appropriate cyber insurance. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Improving Your Organisation’s Cyber Resilience
  2. Incident Response Planning: More Than Dealing with Cyber Security Breaches and Outages
  3. How Does Your Organisation Manage Cyber Supply Chain Risk?
  4. Why You Need a Security Operations Centre

Conclusion:

While some bots may be benign, many are engaged in unscrupulous behaviour, such as stealing valuable commercial data or attempting to obtain access illegitimately. At best, bots are a drain on an organisation's resources, increase demands on infrastructure and causing the expenditure of resources, pushing up costs. In the worst case, they represent a significant cyber threat.

IBRS interviewed experts in the field of bot defence: Craig Templeton, CISO and GM Tech Platforms with REA Group and Sam Crowther, developer of the Kasada bot defence platform.

Read more ...

The Latest

9 March 2021: Dropbox has acquired DocSend for US$165 million. This is a welcome addition to managing the risks associated with information management in a collaborative environment. 

Why it’s Important

Dropbox’s acquisition is not about organic growth, as DocSend’s client base of 17,000 users is dwarfed by Dropbox’s estimated 600 million. The deal is more about positioning Dropbox against the likes of Adobe Document Cloud, by allowing organisations to track what happens to information once it is shared. Being able to manage and track document access is a critical aspect of modern, enterprise-grade file sharing which is needed for secure collaboration. It is a feature missing in most collaborative platforms - at least out of the box. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Being able to manage access and track who’s accessed a document is a good start for closing the governance issues of most collaborative platforms (e.g. Teams, Slack, Zoom, Zoho, etc.)  However, organisations should look at adopting a zero trust model for information assets, involving identity management linked to access controls and an ‘encrypt everything by default’ mentality.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Did Dropbox just break knowledge management?
  2. IBRS survey exposes Teams risk - The Australian - 21 January 2021
  3. Microsoft Teams governance: Emerging better practices
  4. Data loss by the back door, slipping away unnoticed
  5. Workforce transformation Part 2: The evolving role of folders for controlled collaboration

The Latest

11 March 2021: Talend, a big data / data integration solutions vendor, has signed an MOU to be acquired by private equity giant Thomas Bravo for US$2.4 billion, representing a nearly 30% premium on its current share price. 

Why it’s Important

Talend has been aggressive with the development of its solutions in the last few years, in particular in the area of managing data quality. During one-on-one briefings with IBRS, the company has demonstrated considerable flexibility in its roadmap and the willingness, and agility, to take cues of the emerging needs of clients.

Conventional wisdom is that once tech firms get subsumed by private equity, innovation declines as business drive turns to ‘rent seeking’ behaviour. This is especially true for funds that have a portfolio of well-established (legacy) technologies. A review of Thomas Bravo’s current and prior investments places Talend in a fund that previously held the likes of Attachmate and Compuware. Attachmate (now owned by Micro Focus) was seen to be aggressive with audits during the period it was owned by Thomas Bravo. On the surface, this could be cause for concern about the future direction of Talend.  

However, there are significant differences. Talend has a growing user base, is positioned in a market segment that is still evolving and has at least a decade of product innovation to come.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Business intelligence / big data teams
  • Data management leads
  • Procurement 

What’s Next?

Over the next half-decade, an acquisition of Talend by Thomas Bravo is likely to deliver a continued commitment to market-led innovation. There is enough head-room for the fifteen-year old Talend to continue deploying new capabilities at pace that keeps clients happily buying more services.  

However, as the market for big data management solutions matures - especially shared data catalogues - pressure may start to mount for Talend to refocus on extracting more revenue from clients with proportionally less investment in development. Yes, that is a worst-case scenario, and it is not unique to Talend nor its deal with Thomas Bravo.  

Even so, organisations looking to invest in big data management solutions need to be viewing their investment futures over a decade. Such solutions quickly become fundamental platforms for the business and will be difficult (and expensive) to replace as they become increasingly embedded. Keep the long-term scenario in mind. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Power BI is driving data democratisation: Prepare now
  2. Why investing in data governance makes good business sense
  3. Key lessons from the executive roundtable on data, analytics and business value
  4. Machine learning will displace “extract, transform and load” in business intelligence and data integration
  5. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS provide input into suitable reporting systems using primarily in-system data, but not excluding third party?

The Latest

9 March 2021: The Australian Defence Department has inked a deal with Fujitsu, Leido and KBR to blitz its ageing network and end-user computing environment in a program of work thought to be worth around AU$200 million.

Why it’s Important

Fujitsu is not the first vendor that comes to mind when thinking about end-user computing overhauls. However, in the world of highly secure workplaces, vendors such as Fujitsu and Unisys have unique offerings and experiences. Even if not using these vendor’s capabilities, the critical components of the security architecture are worth noting by organisations that need to protect information assets with an increasingly mobile or distributed workforce. 

Who’s impacted

  • End-user computing / digital workspace architects
  • Security teams

What’s Next?

With remote working no longer a choice, but a business continuity issue, organisations need to rethink traditional approaches to securing information assets and people when planning for the next upgrade of end-user computing. Identity management, contextual access control and encryption of information assets are three essential pillars of a modern, secure digital workspace. Building upon these pillars, organisations can look towards zero trust approaches and adopt emerging new techniques for detecting issues and protecting the organisation, such as embodied in products for user, entity and behavioural analytics (UEBA).

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Architecting identity and access management
  2. Embracing security evolution with zero trust networking
  3. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

Conclusion:

Involving end-users in the software development cycle isn’t a new concept, yet reportedly, 78 per cent of IT project professionals believe business stakeholders need to be more involved in and engaged with the requirements process1. Commonly, software development project managers report problems with end-users’ ability to learn and use the new system and/or the end-users’ perceived quality of system functionality. While usability testing is meant to be a safeguard for system ease-of-use, user acceptance testing is designed to be a safeguard for the development of quality functionality. Both play a different role in the software development lifecycle.

This paper covers the differences between usability testing with end-users and user acceptance testing, also conducted with end-users and why both are equally important for the software development success.

Read more ...

The Latest

18 February 2021: The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force report highlighted major increases in employment for ICT and business professionals.

Net increases of note in the period were:

ICT professionals 

  • programmers (14%)
  • network professionals (16%)
  • web designers (16%)
  • database administrators (23%)

Business professionals

  • accountants (14%) 
  • information / organisational professionals (27%).

Who’s impacted

  • CIOs
  • Sourcing Teams
  • Human Resources

What’s Next?

These increases are consistent with forecasts that found ICT spending would increase in 2021 to
secure growth opportunities and support remote staff.

Employment increases of the scale above inevitably trigger investment in new systems that need
innovative software solutions, hardware, and specialised ICT services, all of which open the door for
market-ready vendors to promote their offerings.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. ICT Trends 2021-2021: No new normal and the fourth wave of ICT
  2. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS help in an understanding of where Australian companies are in relation to spend vs revenue? 
  3. Why benchmarking IT costs and staffing is important

The Latest

25 February 2021: Microsoft has announced a new industry Microsoft Cloud product suite. In short, Microsoft is pivoting to deliver vertical market Cloud offering for: Financial Services, Manufacturing, Non-profit and Retail on the back of the success with the Microsoft Healthcare Cloud. The primary purpose of these tailored industry solutions is to meet specific needs, breakdown silos and increase collaboration, productivity and efficiency within and across Industries.

Is this new or are we seeing a response to similar Cloud SaaS verticals from Salesforce and Netsuite?

Why it’s Important

Whether it is regulatory compliance or creating efficiencies, Microsoft is the latest to develop industry driven verticals offerings under the Microsoft Cloud banner. Whilst each MS Cloud solution addresses specific industry needs it also makes a concerted effort to take the existing Microsoft software products suites and add new capabilities to M365, Azure, Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform. 

This level of investment by Microsoft in Cloud specific solutions should reduce the need for industries to invest heavily in their own solutions and instead adopt a common off the shelf SaaS solution. But will this provide competitive advantage for industries or will it make everything vanilla over time. Microsoft is planning continuous engagement with Industry leaders to ensure constant innovation so the industry Clouds do not become a one size fits all, set and forget approach. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CDO
  • Digital Supply Chain
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Software Architecture Leads

What’s Next?

Monitor the release of these industry specific Microsoft Cloud solutions in March 2021. As with Microsoft Power Platform products, much of the pricing remains a mystery for these Cloud offerings. By all means get access to release information and hopefully a private preview from March 2021 so you can see if the industry solution really meets your business needs.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Book at an advisory session to explore how Microsoft’s Strategy impacts your organisation
  2. Pros and Cons of Going All-In With Microsoft
  3. Google Workspace for Education - From Free to Fee
  4. Oracle’s new federal government Cloud capabilities

The Latest

23 February 2021: The appetite for crowdfunding of tech startups looks to remain strong, with the fledgling accounting software vendor Thrive securing AU$3 million through the Birchal service.  

Why it’s Important

There are two lessons to take from this announcement. 

First, commercial crowdfunding is a growth area that will favour niche tech start-ups. As more success stories emerge, this has the potential to re-invigorate the Australian startup community, which has been lagging. 

Second, it highlights the likely capabilities to be introduced in SaaS-based financial solutions: namely AI-powered automation and machine-learning decision support.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFOs
  • Individual investors

What’s Next?

There is the potential for larger organisations to set aside funds to invest in startups. CIOs and CFOs may wish to watch the crowdfunding space that may provide relevant solutions to their needs, or secure services that may complement or even compete with their organisation. While IBRS acknowledges this strategy will not be suitable for the majority of organisations it works with, there is the possibility this will become more common over the next decade, especially for startups in security, Cloud management and cost control, AI-powered automation and machine learning-based decision support systems.

While Thrive is unlikely to be of interest to CIOs, being targeting squarely at SMEs and sole traders, the vendor’s goals leverage AI to automate much of the account process and provide recommendations, highlighting where development dollars will be going for many SaaS-based accounting solutions.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CIOs seek ready-made over DIY AI solutions
  2. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  3. Salesforce Einstein automate
  4. The evolution of SaaS offerings for legacy systems

The Latest

23 February 2021: Creatio has just taken US$68 million in funding, joining the current investment frenzy in low-code platform vendors. 

Why it’s Important

Creatio started life as a BPM vendor in 2011, and introduced its low-code platform in 2013, making it one of the better established of the new generation of low-code vendors. This round of investment is relatively small, compared recent activity in the low-code platform market. Even so, it is yet more evidence that the market for Cloud-based low-code is on the boil. These low-code platform vendors are spending their new-found cash on the following, in order of priority:

  • global market expansion: setting up new offices and hiring channel managers, which means more vendors will be entering the ANZ market more aggressively
  • buying additional elements of the ‘low-code everything’ stack: including business process mapping / management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), API management (APIM) and rules engines
  • buying market share with acquisitions: as we saw recently with Nintex procuring K2

The challenge for buyers of low-code platforms is that while the market is beginning to see a great deal of change and competition, their ICT investments need to be considered for the long-term - at least a decade. This is due to the need to invest the skills, processes, governance and change management to get the promised returns on whatever low-code is selected. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When considering low-code platforms (and it is likely your organisation will have more than one, in order to meet different needs) look for the investment and development road map of the vendors. In particular, determine if the vendors have a viable strategy to develop skills and support resources locally, either directly or through channel partners. Also, explore their road map for delivering more than just eforms and workflow, but moving to acquire or develop a ‘low-code everything’ platform. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million
  2. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need
  3. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  4. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape

Conclusion:

Digital transformation initiatives will drive organisations to grow existing skills and develop new competencies. Unless this need to grow is recognised and plans developed to train geeks in advance, projects will falter and delays will frustrate stakeholders.

To avoid failure it is imperative that organisations develop workplace initiatives to close the (presumed) skills gap, and ensure the business case for the transformation includes funds to train the right people (geeks) and upskill them. Unless the initiatives are identified, and funds allocated, sponsors will need to continually ask for more resources – a career-limiting activity.

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Conclusion:

Traditional Enterprise Architectures (EAs) were introduced to tighten IT control over the type of technology to be used and ensure IT developers comply with IT standards. While this control driver was essential to ensure cost-effective solutions, it was introduced at the expense of efficiency. Without reducing the essential controls, modern EAs should shift the current focus to continuous service improvement. This will permit a flexible mode of work (e.g. anywhere, anytime, any device) and enable businesses to transform, grow and survive in the digital world.

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Conclusion:

As-a-Service machine learning (ML) is increasingly affordable, easily accessible and with the introduction of self-learning capabilities that automatically build and test multiple models, able to be leveraged by non-specialists.

As more data moves into Cloud-based storage – either as part of migrating core systems to the Cloud or the use of Cloud data lakes/data warehouses – the use of ML as-a-Service (MLaaS) will grow sharply.

This paper summarises options from four leading Cloud MLaaS providers: IBM, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

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Conclusion:

Many organisations have implemented frameworks and methodologies, increased internal project management and improved project governance in an effort to improve IT project success. The Standish Group report on project success has shown considerable improvement over the last 18 years. However, projects still do fail, and organisations can improve their preparedness for projects and change programs by spending time undertaking a business readiness assessment (BRA) before they begin any new change initiative.

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Conclusion:

Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives information and communication technology (ICT) leaders to look at new ICT applications with the promise of greater benefits. Many organisations then fail to maximise the value of their existing applications and Power BI is no exception. Hidden under a Microsoft enterprise agreement, organisations and staff are often unaware of Power BIs full capabilities.

Excel still remains a default position for most data analytics. The main reason is familiarity and flexibility to construct, but it has limited access to data warehouses making it less efficient as a business intelligence (BI) tool. Complex problems require multiple spreadsheets to capture and analyse data from multiple sources. Changes are often tedious and time-consuming.

To generate meaningful business insights, ICT leaders need to initiate the use cases and upskill staff with BI tools such as Power BI which are capable of agility and real-time value add.

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Conclusion:

This month, discussions regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous solutions have been prominent. As customers become aware of the potential benefits of adopting new solutions, vendors must be capable of clarifying the associated risks. This will allow vendors to respond to rising customer expectations, particularly when they require faster responses to change or have larger, more complex projects. When comparatively new solutions are sought after, but possess market gaps or perceived weaknesses, vendors must be prepared to cater to them and facilitate transparency with customers regarding the unknowns. This will assist with maintaining the integrity of offerings and supporting customer interactions. While the failure to adopt new solutions quickly can result in disadvantages in the market, vendors need to exercise caution. Premature adoption without sufficient strategic planning, analysis as well as transparency with customers can result in unforeseen and negative outcomes.

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Conclusion:

For many years Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have faced endless questions about whether Microsoft (MS) and other suppliers meet the requirements for an enterprise-grade solution. The main components of the office suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and the Windows operating systems for desktops and servers, has been de facto standards for most organisations for many years.

With Microsoft’s success with Azure (Cloud and infrastructure), Dynamics (enterprise resource planning (ERP)), Office 365 (collaborative workplace platform) and the PowerPlatform (analytics and low-code workflow development), MS is now competitive in almost every aspect of the enterprise solution space. Your organisation’s approach to determining the value proposition for any supplier is the same as it has always been – maximum gain with minimum pain. The MS offering in both terms of capabilities, service support and security has matured significantly and now offers a much-improved value proposition that organisations should consider.

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Conclusion:

Allowing employees to use personal devices for work purposes comes with a unique security challenge. How can the organisation keep track of so many endpoints and make sure that each one is secure? Organisations need to examine their mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in order to protect the organisation from security breaches as a result of insecure mobile devices.

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Australian businesses expecting the hassles of the COVID-19 pandemic to vanish in 2021 are in for a rude shock, according to business analyst firm IBRS, which as also released a new report on the future of the IT space. The firm's "Future of Work" expert, and IBRS advisor, Dr. Joseph Sweeney said improvements in IT departments were required because customer organisations will remain threatened by sporadic coronavirus incidents for some time yet.

The IBRS report, titled Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT, outlines misconceptions businesses have regarding the timeline of the pandemic and that a new, fourth-wave of ICT architecture is emerging in response to the challenges that will linger after the vaccine rollout.

Full story.

There is more innovation going on behind the scenes in Australian organisations than they are being given credit for. IBRS advisor, Dr Joseph Sweeney, who specialises in the areas of workforce transformation and the future of work stated, Australian organisations have led the world in the uptake of virtualisation which now has Australia leading in terms of Cloud adoption. 'World-leading Australian innovation was emerging in how Cloud-based services could be used to make internal operations more efficient, which was less glamorous than some of the consumer-facing apps being developed by emerging fintech companies, but equally worthwhile." said Dr Sweeney. 

“One area of innovation IBRS has identified over the last year is a rapid update of low-code platforms to allow less-technical staff to be involved in digitising business processes,” he said. Citizen developers aren't just limiting themselves to e-forms but are using a full range of low code tools and vendors are reporting sales growth of over 30%.

Full story.

The Latest

01 March 2021: ServiceNow released the latest quarterly edition of its platform. 

Why it’s Important

ServiceNow provided the latest quarterly release in March 2021. In this version, called ‘Quebec’, ServiceNow has revised its support model and incorporated major changes to enable the effective upgrades from either New York, Orlando or Paris versions.

A streamlined support structure will help CIO and ITSM team on a ‘learn, prepare and upgrade’ model. 

  1. Learn: Identify your upgrade path and consider the release highlights.
  2. Prepare: Choose the tools to perform a risk and value assessment of the upgrade. Use the upgrade value calculator, the playbook to maintain platform health and a risk assessment of platform customisations.
  3. Upgrade: Maximise the upgrade value by reviewing over 78 release highlights across core functionality, ITSM workflows, AI, asset management, security, risk and cost, customer and field service workflows, employee workflows ,safe workspace, and workspace service delivery

One of the big winners is the telecommunication sector, with enhancements to the product cataloguing, order management and open API’s to assist with alarm management. A new processing engine has been created to automate alerts and incidents.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • ITSM functional Leads 
  • DevOps leads
  • Security Leads

What’s Next?

ServiceNow clients should set time to review the release notes for Quebec and consider the ‘learn, prepare and upgrade’ literature to determine whether they are ready for the upgrade. If so, plan and execute once the risks and value are clear.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. New generation IT service management tools Part 1
  2. New generation IT service management tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud management
  3. New generation IT service management tools Part 3: Multi-Cloud backup and recovery

The Latest

15 February 2021: IBM has unveiled the new Power Private Cloud (PPC) Rack solution which offers converged infrastructure with a focus on migrating legacy on-premises apps running on its POWER9/AIX systems to a Cloud-like infrastructure.

What’s Included

The PPC is effectively pre-built, pre-configured Cloud-like infrastructure for running containers. 

The PPC Rack consists of three POWER System S922 servers with 20 CPU cores, 256GB of RAM, and 3.2TB of local storage, the FlashSystem 5200, with a minimum of 9.6TB,  and twin SAN24B-6 switches with 24 Fibre Channel ports. The solution is pre-installed with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, IBM PowerVM Enterprise Edition, IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, and Red Hat OpenShift OpenShift Container Storage (OCS).

Why it’s Important

IBM’s new offer is effectively a container-centric, Cloud-like hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) similar to that offered by HPE, Dell, Lenovo, VMware, and Nutanix. More importantly, IBM is offering this at an easy target - its existing customers with legacy POWER9/AIX/i solutions looking to migrate to a Cloud-like environment with OpenStack.

For IBM clients, it presents a low-risk opportunity for extending the life of legacy applications, while modernising the environment. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations moving legacy solutions into hyperscale Cloud infrastructure (IaaS) to meet the objectives of ‘Cloud first’ strategies have found that the proposed cost savings are not always present, and operational risks due to skills shortages can emerge. The rise of next-generation hyperconverged offering Cloud-like management is a response to this challenge. 

IBM’s new offering shows how this grandfather of the industry, with a massive backlog of legacy solutions, will seek to re-secure its client’s investment in solutions, while smoothing the transition to Cloud-like architectures. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Woolworths Selects Dell Technologies Cloud to deploy hybrid Cloud strategy
  2. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 49: The case for hybrid Cloud migration
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 50: Hybrid Cloud migration – Where is the money saving?

The Latest

In late January, Google presented a detailed report entitled “Operating the cleanest cloud in the industry” to analysts. The private briefing detailed Google’s current status as a ‘net zero-carbon emitter’ (meaning it offsets any carbon emissions from its current operations with other programs). It also outlined its plans to be running entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

Why it’s Important

All of the hyperscale Cloud vendors - Google, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba - have well-documented strategies to reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuel sources. Their strategies are all similar and simple: reduce energy consumption (with accompanying higher computing density) and development of renewable energy sources as part of data centre planning. Their efforts in this area are not just for environmental reasons, there are significant cost benefits in the immediate term to being free of fossil energy supply chains. All also see competitive advantages, not just against each other, but against on-premises data centres.

As these Cloud vendors announce not only net zero-carbon emission targets as being met, but zero carbon energy targets, the issue of sustainable ICT will once again start to emerge as a serial consideration for CIOs and data centre architects.  

IBRS and BIAP (via the IT Leaders Summits) have tracked CIOs interests in the topic of green IT. An IBRS study in 2008 had sustainable ICT being rated as “very important” for 25% of CIOs and “somewhat important” for 59% of CIOs. Since then, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year-on-year. The IBRS / BIAP data for 2016 had 6% of CIOs rating sustainable ICT as a priority. By 2020, less than 0.5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a priority.

With the growing call for action on climate change and the economic advantages the hyperscale Cloud vendors will have by moving to carbon-free energy sources, the pressure to provide sustainable ICT metrics will re-emerge.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs and infrastructure leads for organisations running on-premises services / data centres should expect a swing back to discussions of sustainability. However, unlike the 2000’s, the benchmarks for sustainability will be set by the hyperscale Cloud providers. By 2025, all Cloud vendors will start using their leadership in sustainable ICT as a selling point for policy-makers to mandate Cloud computing, or possibly even place unattainable goals for architects of on-premises data centres.

Rather than waiting, CIOs should review previous strategies for sustainable ICT, with the expectation that these will need to be updated and reinstated within the next 3-5 years.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Status of Green IT in Australian and New Zealand (2008)
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. Think green IT: Think saving money
  4. Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009

The Latest

17 February 2021: At the Learning with Google global event, the Cloud giant announced a slew of new education-oriented features for its education productivity suite. Previously called G Suite for Education, the Google Workspace for Education is now being aggressively commercialised.  

What’s included

The free tier service - now called Google Workspaces for Education Fundamentals, had found strong acceptance in Australia by providing educators and students with collaborative learning capabilities. 

This free tier now has three paid tiers, each with increasing levels of security and manageability. 

  • Standard: Adds security and analytics capabilities. The new features are aimed at improving traceability and providing more nuanced access rights to information.
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade: Adds features to better manage the classroom experience.
  • Education Plus: Combines all the features of the previous tiers, in addition to extra management capabilities. 

In addition, Google increased the baseline storage capacity for educational institutions to a whopping 100 TB, and added online-learning features to Google Meet.

Why it’s Important

Google and Microsoft are locked in a fierce battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in education. Both vendors know that student’s experiences with their productivity platforms today, will set expectations and habits for the workforce of tomorrow. This battle extends beyond the productivity suite to device, operating systems and ultimately, the entire digital workspace.

By introducing features that have been much in demand by education (especially K12) into commercial tiers, Google is fundamentally changing its stance in this war. In most State K12 and private education systems, Principals have the final say on the extent to which Google or Microsoft is used in classrooms. Often the decision is delegated down to the teachers and often both vendor’s offerings sit side by side.

Google’s evolving commercial stance means that this can no longer be the case. Given the total national cost (as ultimate schools are funded through State and Federal funds) educational policy setters now need to consider taking a side in the battle. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policy makers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Stakeholders within education need to immediately begin the laborious task of evaluating Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings, not just from the perspective of current offerings, but from their likely future directions. While the need to rationalise to one platform today may not be a burning priority, the need will increase over the next decade.

Stakeholders outside of education should monitor the decisions of education networks, as the platforms they select will impact new staff expectations and work habits. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

Conclusion:

Thinking that the pandemic will soon be past and some form of new normal will emerge, be it working from home or office work, or a hybrid mix - is a misconception. Even with a vaccine, the pandemic will continue in isolated, difficult to predict pockets, and cause sporadic rapid changes to work practices for the foreseeable future. Organisations will need to be able to quickly flip-flop work environments rapidly, and work processes - and thus technologies - must evolve to meet the challenges of the 'age of uncertainty'. A fourth wave of ICT architecture is emerging, with a focus on information over architecture, low-code everything and powered by algorithms.

Find attached at the bottom of the article a free downloadable PDF copy of the trends for 2021-2026 executive presentation deck.

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